- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security yesterday rolled out nearly $400 million in grant allocations for ports, mass transit and intercity bus systems across the United States.

The allocations include $14.3 million for additional security measures on transit systems in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan region, and $4.8 million for the Port of Baltimore, the department said in a statement. Local officials said some of the money would be spent on building an alternative operations center for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The transit money includes $1.3 million for bus systems throughout the region and $13 million for the region’s commuter rail networks: Baltimore’s light rail system, Virginia’s VRE, Maryland’s MARC train and Washington’s Metro.

A working group of local transit and homeland affairs officials will decide how the money should be divided up among the different systems, said a member of the group on the condition of anonymity.

“We have known for several months how much money we were going to get,” the official said, “and we have made our recommendations” to the state homeland security advisers for Maryland, Virginia and the District. “They have never not been accepted in the past.”

The official declined to comment in detail about the decision on spending, which has not been publicly released, but he said one key recommendation was for an alternative operations center that could be used to run the Metro in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

“That has been identified as the number one vulnerability [among the transit systems] in the region,” the official said.

“These resources will further enhance risk-based initiatives to increase security around vital,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, adding that the disbursement process “also represent a major step forward in how the department integrates expert input and risk-based formulas into the allocation of limited resources.”

Elsewhere, however, officials were disappointed.

“It is difficult to understand any port security funding program that completely leaves out one of the nation’s largest ports,” said Matthew Bettenhausen, director of the California Office of Homeland Security, upon learning that no dollars would be allocated for Oakland.

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